Cardinal Blase Cupich is still keeping secrets on child sex abuse by order priests
The Archdiocese of Chicago for the first time has posted the names of credibly accused sex-offender priests from multiple Catholic religious orders — with many unexplained omissions.By Robert Herguth | Chicago Sun-Times
Several years after Cardinal Blase Cupich began cracking down on religious orders to report their sexually abusive clergy members who preyed on minors, the Archdiocese of Chicago has added dozens of order priests to its online posting of predatory clergy.
But Cupich is still keeping secrets on clergy sex abuse of minors, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.
Even though the archdiocese instantly nearly doubled the size of its list of clergy deemed to have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children, there are significant gaps in what’s been added.
Those include the omissions of some clergy members whose orders deemed them to have molested children or who were the subject of lawsuits over predatory sexual acts that church officials settled. Among them:
- The Rev. John Baptist Ormechea, a priest from the Passionists order who was deemed by church authorities to have molested children while assigned to Immaculate Conception Church on the Far Northwest Side between the late 1970s and the late 1980s. The order and the archdiocese were both sued over his misconduct and settled cases.
- The Rev. Terence Fitzmaurice, a now-dead Benedictine priest who was accused in lawsuits — including one that the archdiocese settled — of having sexually assaulted children while assigned to St. Procopius Church in Pilsen, including a girl he was accused of impregnating.
- The Rev. Donald McGuire, a now-deceased Jesuit priest who worked at Loyola Academy in Wilmette whose order says the “range of his abuse spanned multiple incidents over multiple years at multiple locations.”
A shift in policy
Cupich had long made clear his position that child sex abuse by clergy members from Catholic orders operating in his geographic territory was something he thought was best left for them to deal with.
For instance, in 2009, when he was the top bishop in Rapid City, South Dakota, Cupich, questioned under oath for a lawsuit, was asked whether he “ever personally considered, as the bishop, to publish the names of credibly accused Jesuits, Benedictines or any other religious order who have offended in this diocese.”
Cupich — whose diocese included Native American communities where religious order priests staffing missions and schools had molested children — responded, “No, I haven’t because that is a matter for the religious order to do.”
Despite calls from victims and church reformers to change course, that remained his position after he became Chicago’s archbishop in 2014. For years, Cupich refused to include priests, brothers and deacons from Catholic orders, which operate largely independently, in the archdiocese’s list. He left it to the orders themselves to decide whether to offer a public accounting of their abusive clerics even though many orders have a history of secrecy regarding clergy sex abuse and despite Cupich having demanded after a scandal in 2018 that they provide that information to the archdiocese.
In recent days, though, in what appears to be a reversal of Cupich’s previous policy, the archdiocese added the names of dozens of clerics from Catholic religious orders to its online list, which previously included 73 diocesan priests and deacons — clergy members who, unlike those in the orders, worked in Cook and Lake counties under the direct authority of Cupich or his predecessors.
The archdiocese doesn’t identify where the order clerics had been assigned, though it added more than 400 assignment histories for the 73 diocesan clerics.
Neither Cupich nor his top aides would comment on the changes, including the criteria for choosing who to include on the expanded list.
Attorney general investigating
But the move comes as Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office is believed to be wrapping up what’s been a years-long examination of predatory priests that already has found that the Catholic church in Illinois vastly underreported the extent of child sex abuse by its clergy.
The archdiocese’s latest list is dated Oct. 14.
That was one day before the Sun-Times published the latest in a series of more than a dozen reports that have detailed secrecy and coverups on the part of Catholic orders operating in Chicago and the suburbs regarding their priests, brothers and deacons accused of child sexual abuse, in some cases even after they were convicted of crimes.
The names added to the archdiocese’s list include 49 men from more than a dozen Catholic orders, including the Franciscans, Jesuits, Carmelites, Claretians and Dominicans.
All of the orders operate elsewhere as well as in the Chicago area and have their own specialized ministries and leadership but need permission from Cupich or bishops in other dioceses to operate in their geographic territories.
The archdiocese runs most Catholic parishes and elementary schools in the city and nearby suburbs, and religious orders operate most of the Catholic high schools.
The men added to the list are described as “members of religious orders present in the Archdiocese of Chicago who served in an archdiocesan ministry and have been identified by their respective orders as having a substantiated or credible allegation of child sexual abuse made against them, as determined by the religious order.”
Some of the names already were widely known, having been publicly identified by their orders or in lawsuits, but others weren’t.
Among those added to the list was former priest James Stein, who was a member of the Norbertine order and was twice convicted of sex crimes in Wisconsin. Nate Lindstrom — who killed himself in 2020 — had told friends and family that, as a teenager, he’d been molested by Stein. The priest later lived and ministered for years in Chicago, including filling in and officiating at mass at St. Sabina Church on the South Side around 1990. Stein would not comment.
More diocesan priests added
In addition to the order clergy, Cupich’s list also added 16 Chicago-area diocesan priests “against whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor were substantiated after their death.” Those priests had served in a total of more than 80 assignments, mostly at parishes in Chicago and the suburbs.
The names of some of these deceased clerics already were known as a result of lawsuits and news reports. One was the Rev. Thomas Horne, who served at Holy Name Cathedral — the seat of the Catholic church in the region, in whose rectory Cupich lives — and at St. Peter Damian Church in Bartlett. Horne died in 1985.
Other names were less well known, including the Rev. David Ball, who once served at the now-closed Angel Guardian Orphanage on the North Side and who died in 1999, and the Rev. Roland LeCompte, who died in 1969 and once was assigned to Quigley Preparatory Seminary, the now-shuttered high school that trained future priests.
Though Cupich’s office wouldn’t answer questions about the new names on the list, it appears that the dead diocesan priests who were added all had faced two or more credible accusations of child sex abuse.
Also added to the list were seven “extern priests” from other dioceses, including northwest Indiana and Joliet, who “served in an archdiocesan ministry and have been identified by their respective dioceses as having a substantiated or credible allegation of child sexual abuse made against them.”
While the archdiocese list doesn’t identify their assignments, other records show one of those men, a now-deceased priest from Poland named Aloysius Piorkowski, had served at St. Pancratius Church in Brighton Park and at the storied Nebraska orphanage Boys Town. Church authorities believe he had “multiple” child victims.
In addition to Ormechea, the Sun-Times found other members of religious orders who weren’t added to the archdiocese’s list though they previously had been found to have been credibly accused of molesting kids. They include:
- A member of the Viatorians, the order that runs St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights.
- Members of the Vincentians, the order that runs DePaul University in Lincoln Park.
- A member of the Paulists, the order that runs Old St. Mary’s Church in the South Loop.
The Irish Christian Brothers order — which runs Brother Rice High School on the Far Southwest Side and St. Laurence High School in Burbank — maintains a list of 49 members it says have faced two or more sexual misconduct accusations, but its list doesn’t identify clerics who faced accusations that were found to have been credible, those facing claims deemed not credible and those facing accusations that weren’t ever investigated. At least a dozen of the men on the list served at some point in the Chicago area, records show.
The archdiocese doesn’t include any of them among the names it added.
One of them, Brother Edward Courtney, was a “serial sexual predator” responsible for abusing more than 50 children, according to court records, interviews and news accounts.
A relative says Courtney died in 2021.
Convicted — but not on the list
Also, Brother Ronald Lasik, who died in 2020, is on the Christian Brothers’ list but not on Cupich’s, though he worked in Chicago at St. Laurence and Leo High School decades ago and was convicted of molesting children at Mount Cashel orphanage in Canada. Court records show one boy was sodomized “200 times or more” and subjected to “other sexual activity including masturbation and oral sex.”
Nor does the cardinal’s list include Brother Robert Ryan, a member of the Marist Brothers order, which doesn’t post its own list.
Ryan, who died in 2017, is accused in a pending lawsuit against the order of having sexually assaulted students at Marist High School on the Southwest Side in the 1970s. That suit says Ryan “engaged in masturbation with numerous minor boys,” forcibly “performed oral sex on numerous minor boys” and forcibly “anally raped and/or sodomized minor boys with implements and/or sadomasochistic objects.”
In a written statement, the Marist Brothers order says: “The province has not received any complaints regarding Brother Robert Ryan while he served in Chicago. We encourage anyone who has been abused by a member of the Marist Brothers to contact the appropriate authorities and our order, regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred.”